Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Do as you would be done by, is the surest method that I know of pleasing.

Earl of Chesterfield

S North
Both ♠ K Q 4 3
 7 6
 9 8 2
♣ Q 10 9 7
West East
♠ J 8
 10 9 8 5 3
 K 7 4
♣ A 5 3
♠ 10 9 6 5 2
 A Q
 A 6 5
♣ K 8 4
♠ A 7
 K J 4 2
 Q J 10 3
♣ J 6 2
South West North East
1 1 Dbl. Pass
1 NT All pass    


This month I have been running deals from Larry Cohen’s recent book: “Larry Cohen Teaches Declarer Play at Notrump”. So let me run a deal which shows him as the hero, in a no-trump contract.

In the 2000 World Championship, Larry as South played one no-trump on the lead of the heart 10 to East’s ace. At trick two, the heart queen was returned. How should South play?

Larry counted five sure tricks, and could develop two more from either minor. However, whichever suit he worked on, declarer would have to knock out both the ace and king. So what is the potential problem?

Every suit is at least double-stopped, but the defense is threatening to take seven tricks (the minor suit ace-kings and three heart tricks) before declarer can come to his seven. Look what would happen if South won the heart king at trick two and went to work on one of the minors. Whichever minor he tackled, West could win and play a third round of hearts, establishing his suit. He would still have an entry, and declarer would lose the race.

Once you identify the problem, the solution is not hard. You must allow East to win his heart queen at trick two. In the unlikely event that he produces a third heart, the suit will be four-three and there is nothing to worry about.

Equally, even if East shifts to spades, declarer has plenty of time to set up his seven tricks by playing on one minor or the other.

This is a hand where your values, such as they are, appear to be working overtime. You don’t have a lot, but I think you have just enough to bid three spades. It may be a slight stretch, I admit, but it feels right to get in to the auction while you have the chance.


♠ K Q 4 3
 7 6
 9 8 2
♣ Q 10 9 7
South West North East
Pass 2 Dbl. 3

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Iain ClimieJuly 13th, 2017 at 9:15 am

Hi Bobby,

I quite agree with the BWTA assessment especially as you want a spade lead if the oppo take the push. On the play hand, though, what if East plays a spade at T3? Isn’t there now a danger that you get cut off from a spade winner or that you et up East’s suit?

I think South has to take the SA and play a club to get an eventual entry to the SQ. West has to take this and play another spade, taken in dummy to play another club, staying on table if ducked to cash the other spade winner and then cash the hearts. If the first spade is taken on table, which looks wrong I admit, and maybe if declarer plays on diamonds not clubs, there may still be problems. Also, after the spade switch won with the Ace, what if West plays another heart when in with the C winner? I wonder if there is more to this hand than meets the eye at first glance.



Iain ClimieJuly 13th, 2017 at 9:40 am

Sorry, misread this. After the second heart and a spade, South has no fast re-entry to the heart winners. So supposing he leads the DQ after the SA and West takes this to play another spade. Now South plays a diamond off table and East winds and plays a third diamond. Fortunately the extra diamond winner makes up for the marooned spade winner.


Michael BeyroutiJuly 13th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

I agree with you.
But here’s a slight twist on your second post:
East ducks the second diamond lead, wins the third and exits a spade to dummy. Now declarer has no quick return to hand to cash diamond and heart winners.

Michael BeyroutiJuly 13th, 2017 at 1:21 pm

The auction on the AOB hand is a bit strange in that East passed. He’s the one who could have bid 1NT… and not make it (on a diamond lead)!
I wonder if Deep Finesse (or any double dummy program) tells us that seven no-trump tricks can be made and by which side.

bobby wolffJuly 13th, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Hi Iain & Michael,

No doubt today’s hand makes it difficult to understand why East is being forever silent after partner saw fit to make a vulnerable overcall.

And while the machinations required to claim 6 or 7 tricks either way and regardless of declarer’s play or defense, Larry’s motive no doubt, is to incorporate the unusual ducking plays for both the 1st and 2nd rounds of the opening led suit while holding what turns out to be 2 full stops.

However, one important fact becomes clear and that is if East beats South to the 1NT response, East’s hand lends itself to a stronger bid than 1NT, while pass is merely capitulating to the overwhelming evidence of the vulnerable all around bidding stating partner is really “out there with his bid”.

In any event the opening lead of the queen of diamonds vs. 1NT by East, not South, will definitely produce 7 tricks (or more) for NS, not EW, emphasizing the advantage of the opening lead, which although blind, is at least the advantage of the equivalent of one eye open when a QJ10 is held.

Yes, Michael, even Deep Finesse might be tested as to accurate results on today’s hand since there are many ifs, ands, and buts.

The seven of spades being with the short spade suit hand (S) instead of the length (N), is likely to me to be of great benefit to EW for taking an extra trick at NT (at least to my naked eye at double dummy).

Perhaps we need David Warheit’s great bridge expertise to challenge all double dummy programs on analyzing this one.

jim2July 13th, 2017 at 5:37 pm

East’s lack of bidding is consistent with a partnership understanding of (very) light overcalls with topless suits and shapeless hands.

If this is a real deal, I hope they had “Light Overcalls” marked.

David WarheitJuly 13th, 2017 at 9:09 pm

You asked, so here goes. W leads a H & E plays the Q (!). Unless S is gifted with the ability to see through the backs of cards, he wins the K and leads either a D or a C. E wins, cashes the HA, and returns the other minor to partner who clears H. S now leads a minor & EW win 2C, 2D & 3H.

Or, E wins A & leads HQ which S ducks (or somehow E plays Q and S ducks, so E continues with HA). E now leads a S. S wins (in either hand) and leads either minor. W wins and returns a S. S wins (in the hand that didn’t win the first S), and leads a card in the same minor he led at trick 4. E ducks. Down one.

Iain ClimieJuly 13th, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Thanks David, Bobby, Micahel,

A stray thought on today’s quote though. In Charles KInglsley’s The Water Babies I recall a character called Mrs. Do As You Would Be Done By. Oscar Wilde, though, said “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”


bobby wolffJuly 13th, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

All the solid evidence in the around the table bidding on this hand indicates that East knew about his partner’s habit of bidding (even while vulnerable) on very light hands.

However the mere factor that both N & S were also bidding, while vulnerable, and if East was convinced that his opponents had always been solid citizens it wouldn’t necessarily be proven that EW had any illegal private understandings.

However, even with the above thought as a backdrop, a conservative raise to 2 hearts instead of a drop dead pass, probably would cater to being conservative, but still trying to win a part score battle.

Bridge, being the mind game everyone suspects that it is, may cause younger and more daring players to attempt different strategies, causing their opponents to face different strokes.

My suggestion is for NS to accept what happened but to fill out a recorder slip with all four hands and their actions recorded and allow whoever is skilled enough to be enabled to have a report on that pair, without others knowing about what happened.

Finally, if the Recorder and the process is organized correctly, there will be an accurate record of that pair if and when the next Recorder slip appears, allowing justice to be served without accusation if nothing further is reported.

Perhaps I live in a dream world, but believe it or not when the official Recorder position was established in 1985 the above was how it is supposed to work and I can attest to the first 15+ years at the National level, going back to the turn of the century, at least during those years it was far more plus than minus, with honest players not being charged and would be cheaters being severely challenged and in some cases permanently excluded.

However, yes Jim2 if very light vulnerable bidding is part of EW’s overall bidding agreements, it needs to be on the CC and also pre-alerted.

Thanks for your comments.

bobby wolffJuly 13th, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Hi David,

Although I did not lean over backwards, trying to check out your analysis, I would give you your usual A+. Of course, when speaking of East following suit at trick one with the Q, while holding AQ, that would be hard to fathom, but nevertheless possible and not in itself any kind of illegality, only a question of competence which has nothing to do with bridge law.

Thank you much for your taking the time to enlighten us on what may happen. Your loyalty to bridge and overall approach to bridge analysis stands high on my list of teaching inexperienced players how to climb the ladder to greater heights and therefore more enjoyment.

bobby wolffJuly 13th, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, Oscar had his own views of having fun and above all, seemed to always approve of diversity.

Above all, he was a world class writer, with an off-the-charts sense of humor. In this current world of hate, wars and constant disagreement the world would no doubt be better off with a few more like him.

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